The Dusty Road To Mandalay…

890A1365Sunrise, Bagan, Myanmar

I’m back! At least my body is…

My mind, I’m not so sure…it might arrive later this week. It’s still spinning with the imagery, sounds and scents of distant lands.

 I’ve lost some sense of time & space, but how lovely to come home to Spring and the clocks being turned back, er forward, or…whatever…

 It’s staying lighter much longer than when I left and that makes me very happy :-)

Oh and look at that-Wordpress got new smiley face icons while I was away.

Boy, did we do a lot of traveling in 3 weeks. If it didn’t involve a plane, van, truck, boat, bike, a hike or a climb and a 5:30am wake-up call it was a slow day.

Lake Inle, Myanmar, slimpaley.comCruising along on Lake Inle, Burma

Why all the early starts? It gets hot in *Burma quickly at this time of year. Very, very HOT.  100+ degrees  on many days with nary a suggestion of a breeze. The fine, chalky dust from the red earth rises to meet the omnipresent smoke of the open cooking fires blanketing the atmosphere with a gauzy filter from sunrise to sunset.

Woman smoking, Burma, slimpaley.comA woman in a street market in Mandalay

Yet, despite the heat, many destinations and points of interest require keeping your arms & legs covered, as well as closed toed shoes (because of dust & dirt) yet easily removable (because of the shrines)

Shwedagon Pagoda , slimpaley.comMy shoeless friend and me at the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma. The light coloured marble here was lovely underfoot, but some darker hued stone floors at other shrines, not so much…

We took sooo many photos. There was SO MUCH to photograph! Besides, I wasn’t about to lug my Canon 5D (AKA Big Daddy) 1/2 way across the world for naught. In its travel case it’s the size and weight of a small baby. I attached a big hot pink name tag to the strap (Travel Tip #1 learned after leaving my husband’s headphones in a plane seat pocket) in case I left the baby on a plane, or pagoda steps…Did I mention there are a LOT of pagodas in Burma?!

And that I now know the difference between a stupa, a shrine and a pagoda?

 What is a “Stupa”? for $500 Alex.

I also shot in ‘RAW’  format for the first time-FYI that’s a camera setting not a sartorial choice ( I only just learned about this, hangs head in shame. Thanks Mr. Sammy’s Camera Man!) So I’m busy downloading, sorting and trying to figure out how to transfer all these huge files without taking 5 minutes per pic. It’s hard being an empty-nester and not having in-house tech support anymore, but wowzer-zooming in has taken on a whole new meaning. If the photos take a little longer to load than usual, please bear with me.

Breakfast, slimpaley.comBreakfast. NOT every day.

I’m learning, always learning as I go, and we saw and learned so many wonderful things on this trip.

From the mind-blowing wealth and staggering architecture of Dubai, the chic decors and gorgeous people of Sri Lanka to the endless stupas, golden light and dusty chaotic roads of Burma it was a wild, wild ride.

The Tintagel hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka, slimpaley.com

And always, the beautiful children all over the world

IMG_9632A couple of heart-melters at a monastery in Inle Lake, Myanmar

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 I usually cave to self-inflicted Virgo-ian pressure to blog in chronological fashion, but as my last post was March 6th and inspired by my trip, I’m going to go ‘off road’  and let all these places and photos just spill out willy nilly over the course of the next few weeks.

IMG_9536Much like an intricate mosaic, they might not appear to make complete sense viewed too closely but trust me-they’ll be cohesive when viewed from a distance.

I think.

Stand back a bit farther.

I’m starting with the travel tips I promised you but rather than spew them all out at once (that could be pretty boring) I’ll give you just a few at a time.

Starting with the Most Important; MEDS.

1) NEVER pack them in your suitcase. Always in your carry-on.

2) BRING ANTIBIOTICS. Absolutely mandatory on overseas trips!

 No need for me to run through the more obvious medications (Dramamine, Imodium, Pepto-Bismol (pink bismuth caplets) etc. but you might want to also consider;

3) If you’re going somewhere tropical, always check to make sure the area you’re visiting is Malaria-free. If not, seriously consider taking Malarone tablets. I’d rather suffer through a few bad dreams (a possible side effect, and more or less a given for me) than Malaria. I’ve read too many books about Africa & India to risk it, thank you very much. I’m also always the one covered in mosquito bites so I carry

4) “Mozy” After Bites spray. Provides great relief.

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If your trip requires shots, i.e. Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Influenza, it’s always a good idea to carry your yellow International Certificate of Vaccination (approved by the World Health Organization), in case you need to show it to a foreign doctor for any reason.

5) Toothache gel.  Although I think tooth-aches are rare these days, this can be a life-saver if you aren’t near a reliable dentist. I’ve only ever suffered an adult toothache twice. Both times, away from home and excruciating. Once in San Francisco and once in Vegas, where basically you can just win a new tooth, but imagine suffering from a bad bicuspid in say, Africa??

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6) a Dental Repair kit. A friend shared this with me-how about losing a filling or a crown, especially HORROR of horrors, a visible one, right in the front? Talk about excruciating. No more holiday Selfies for you!

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7) Leg cramp tablets. Long flights, not enough liquids, lots of walking, strange mattresses…I get leg cramps often when I travel and I like Hyland’s Homeopathic pills-I swear they work.

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and lastly, for this go round; my Slim Paley Special Tip that works brilliantly for me whenever I’m around ‘questionable’ tap water;

8) Fluorescent hair ties.

fluorescent hair ties

 

Don't Drink the Water! slimpaley.com

Don’t Use the Water!

The first thing I do in a hotel where I won’t risk even brushing my teeth is to wrap a fluorescent scrunchie around the faucet to serve as a reminder. Because, let’s face it, we’re all Pavlov’s dog when it comes to daily hygiene habits. Works like a charm for husbands & children too :-)

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Next up; not sure… markets & monasteries, fishing & silk weaving, shopping & eating, stupa climbing, beautiful hotels…suns setting & rising and lots of other fun stuff plus more travel tips.

Stay tuned.

Balloon over Bagan, Burma, slimpaley.com

Happy Spring to All!!

xxSP

*To dispel any confusion, Burma is now called ‘Myanmar’ but a healthy number, if not majority of Burmese including our guide and Aung San Suu Kyi still commonly refer to it as Burma, and Yangon as Rangoon. Much of the signage and newspapers still use “Burma” as well. I won’t dare attempt to get into the politics of all this, but the names appeared to be interchangeable without causing any rancour.

I’m Still Here…Just Away

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Believe it or not, I’m still the proprietor of this blog.

I haven’t quit, misplaced my muse, or simply done a runner…

though I did skip town  :-)

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Girl’s Trip!!

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So things around my bedroom looked like this

jewelry.slimpaley.comand this

jewelry.slimpaley.comand this

For days…

goldjewelry.slimpaley.combecause what better time to totally organize all your summer clothes and every single piece of jewelry you own than right before going away for 3 weeks?

(I’ll spare you the pics of my emptied & reorganized drawers as they won’t provide the same thrill factor for you as they did for me)

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OK, maybe just one. It’s too exciting!

My thought process being I wanted to be totally & meticulously prepared for this trip as well as come home to a beautifully  organized closet.

Everything sorted, grouped and instantly accessible.

IMG_9283.slimpaley.comMy jewelry in the hotel room this morning.

Let’s move on, shall we?

Dubai.slimpaley.comWe rendezvoused in Dubai.

A city of conundrums & contradictions.

luxurycars.slimpaley.comToys parked outside the Burj Khalifa/Armani Hotel

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These old boats, a veritable kaleidoscope of patina and charm, dock directly across a busy road from the Spice Market where baskets of cinnamon bark, cardamom pods and nuggets of indigo jostle for precious space amongst teetering stacks of rayon ‘Pashminas’ and plastic Louis Vuitton umbrellas. In the distance, barely visible here (alas, another post) staggering skyscrapers from The Future are here now and battling for supremacy.

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Indigo & rose hips

The Dubai Mall slimpaley.com

Lady hips & more modern shopping

IMG_8995As I said, conundrums & contradictions…

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The Burj Khalifa-Armani Hotel  (also in another post)

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Next port of call; Colombo, Sri Lanka.

We flew right over Thiruvananthapuram.

I just wanted to say that  :-)

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Lots more coming, including good travel & packing tips!

Internet & phone service is sporadic so please bear with me if your comments don’t post right away.

Namaste

xxSP

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Header image via Flickr

The Goldfinch

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Carel Fabritius (1622-1654)
The Goldfinch, 1654

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So we haven’t talked books in awhile. Way too long actually. I admit to suppressing a little shudder when I recall that the desire to chat about books was one of the main catalysts for starting my blog. A book club where I always had the floor :-)

 Alas, what the Gods of Blog don’t tell you is that blogging is The Enemy of Reading.  At least in my case…any other bloggers out there concur?

Anyway…no doubt by now most of you have heard about, if not read, Donna Tartt’s latest book “The Goldfinch”.  It was listed as one of the “Top 10 Books” of 2013 and I can’t imagine it won’t be made into a film very soon. I took the opportunity to read it when we traveled to Patagonia recently.  Weighing in at 784 pages, it’s not a book one would take in hard-cover on holiday, but the perfect choice to christen the new Kindle “Paperwhite” my sister bought me for Christmas. And to uncharacteristically veer off track for just a moment, I LOVE MY PAPERWHITE! Not only is it awesomely convenient and great for my eyes, it’s been a no more stink-eye from the husband relationship-saver when it comes to reading in bed. Such a blessing when you’re on different schedules (He-sleep, Me-What is sleep?) It’s small enough to hold in one hand and even with the backlight dimmed way down, very easy to read (especially, ahem, if I INCREASE THE FONT)

kindle paperwhite , slimpaley.com

But back to Donna…I just need to say this really fast because I know with certainty I’m in the minority here;

IjustlikeditIdidn’tloveit.

There. I actually do feel better getting the confession off my chest.

Perhaps my expectations were simply too lofty-always a problem with good books and films if you don’t get there quickly enough. And the reviews for this book from both critics and people very close to me have been tremendous. Which makes it that much more difficult to admit I had issues.  The main one being that I simply felt compelled to hit my plausibility button just a few too many times. Suspension of belief is all well and good in certain genres of novels but I guess I wasn’t expecting this to be that (and I’m critiquing her writing-God forgive me!)

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 I also felt like The Goldfinch was written for a younger audience than myself, which quite frankly, I didn’t see coming either. Big font and all.  Not that that is a criticism of the book, just a contributing factor as to why it slipped into my ‘like’ as opposed to ‘love’ category.  Though I haven’t read any, I’d venture there have probably been some comparisons of the main character, Theo, to Holden Caulfield. Caufield is a literary star in my deepest heart of hearts, but he earned that place when I was in my early teens. I guess it made me feel a little sad that I couldn’t get to the same place emotionally with Theo, if that makes any sense. Which, maybe it doesn’t.

Please don’t misunderstand me-there was never any time when I wanted to bail, swear at, or even take a break from The Goldfinch. It’s an entertaining, easy and well-flowing read.  But…oh dear, I just have to sneak in one more slightly presumptuous criticism…I think it might have been a better book with tighter editing (at least 100 pages) and may I remind you, no one loves a good long read more than me. I’m the Extended Tasting Menu of readers. When a book is great, I’m in. Hell, I’ll overstay on occasion.  But in this case, long and in my opinion, unnatural conversations (Theo in the bar with his friend’s older brother) and unrelentingly bleak side stories veering wildly away from the plot line for half the book derailed it. That being said, Goldfinch does tie up satisfyingly in the end.

Ok, phew. That made me want a cocktail. I feel so very alone.

I’m going to leave you with a few pretty captive bird related images to redeem my presumptuous old self.

Vogue Livingvia Vogue Australia Living

I had intended to get this post up before The Dutch Masters exhibition at The Frick closed last Sunday. Unfortunately my New Year’s resolution of slowing time and speeding up personal production hasn’t quite manifested as yet. I will tell you that my son and his friend were able to go and said it was fabulous.  Crowds of people lined up in the frigid NY weather to view Fabritius’ Goldfinch, some long stashed away Rembrandts and Vermeer’s The Girl with the Pearl Earring .

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Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl earring

I’m sorry I don’t know where the Dutch Masters exhibition is headed next. Anybody??

Hotel Das Cataratas, Brazil slimpaley.comThis is the lovely, old world bar in the Hotel das Cataratas, located on the Brazilian side of the Iguassu Falls, the second to last stop on our trip to South America.  I loved the hand-painted birds against the old mirror and the broken wires of the cages. Clever.

Bartender, Hotel Das Cataratas, Brazil, slimpaley.com

Brazil, slimpaley.comWhat the clever bartender conjured up

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HauteCulturePress.com ‘s first book is a translation of Flaubert’s “Felicity”.  Handmade using silk, gold and a parrot feather bookmark the volume is signed, numbered and comes complete inside its own birdcage. Also clever!

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Available through Assouline 

Habitually Chic

via HabituallyChic.com

The Biltmore Hotel, Santa Barbara, CA  slimpaley.comThe front entrance foyer of The Biltmore Hotel in Montecito, California last week.

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Versace

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Earrings by SolangeAzagury-Partridge

Paradise by Way of Kensal Green,  Bloomsbury Life“Paradise by Way of Kensal Green” in London (via ABloomsburyLife.com )

Timorous Beasties wallpaper

Wallpaper via Timorous Beasties

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Dolce & Gabbana

McQueen

Alexander McQueen Fall 2013

Elle Decor

bird wallpaper

EnVoguewallpapers.com

bird wallpaper

AlexanderMcQueen-Face-mask

Alexander McQueen Fall 2013

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Wishing you a beautiful weekend with a cozy place to nest and lots of reading time!

For more cagey birds visit my post “Tweet Tweet” 

xox SP

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Ice Capades

Perito Moreno Glacier slimpaley.com

The Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

PeritoMorenoglacier slimpaley.comSo. It’s bloody freezing everywhere, isn’t it? Honestly, I’m usually loathe to touch on the subject of global warming-not even vaguely my area of expertise (still actively searching for that) but who knew “warming” would translate to the coldest winter ever?!  My older son lives in NY, so I worry. He’s thin. Well, truth be told, my younger son lives in California and I worry. He’s tall. I’m my mother’s daughter-that’s my job.

Meanwhile, I’m finally, semi-partially-settled back into normalcy since returning from our family’s South American holiday. It was a wild ride. From 92 degrees with 110% humidity in Buenos Aires to strapping on crampons and glacier hiking in Patagonia, I felt like a contestant in “The Amazing Race”-without all the histrionics of course.

OK, there was the slight to medium-sized hissy fit I threw when my iPhone slid out of my pocket and down a deep crevasse on the glacier…

the glacier that ate my iPhone

But who could blame me?! It was brand new…wa wa. I hadn’t bought a new phone in a really long time (I’m one of those “but what if a new one comes out right after I buy the new one?”) I didn’t get insurance because I never lose or break things, wa wa.

Let’s just say it took me several minutes to recover.

Perito Moreno glacier, Patagonia slimpaley.com

But back to Perito Moreno.

The Eolo hotel, El Calafate, Argentina

We stayed at a most charming hotel, “The Eolo” located on a 10,000 acre ranch aprox. 25 minutes outside of the small town of El Calafate. From there, we drove to Los Glaciares National Park and boarded a small ferry to a cove left of the glacier.

Glaciares National Park  Slimpaley.com

There are a few small structures where you may picnic sheltered from the wind and watch ice move…which it does at a rate I’m forgetting, but a lot faster than you’d think. Just in the short space of time we were there, we saw a major caving off the front of the glacier, a mighty cracking noise followed by a tremendous boom and then startling silence.

Perito Moreno Glacier, slimpaley.com

The Perito Moreno Glacier is over 19 miles long and almost a 100 sq. miles in total. The average height above water is 270 ft, with depths reaching 550 ft. Part of an ice field that is the 3rd largest source of the world’s fresh water, it’s also one of only 3 Patagonian glaciers that is actually growing. Experts aren’t quite sure why.

Perito Moreno glacier, slimpaley.com

PeritoMorenoglacier slimpaley.com

Hiking to the glacier is a startling reminder of how even the wreckage of Mother Nature can be starkly beautiful

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Do you see those tiny black dots on the glacier? It’s the group of hikers ahead of us.

As the photos attest, it wasn’t the most ideal of weather conditions, but we did get lucky in that it wasn’t windy.

PeritoMorenoglacier

This was the last stop, where the guides helped you put on your crampons before climbing onto the glacier. There was also a bin full of soaking wet gloves in case you didn’t bring any. They didn’t mention the gloves were “left” & “right”   Just saying :-(

And off we went…

cramponing glacier slimpaley.com

Our fellow Amazing Race contestants

hiking the glacier slimpaley.com

Some people just know how to pack.

Whatever.

glacier hiking slimpaley.com

It really wasn’t that scary, but once and awhile you had to jump over stuff like this and imagine what it might be like if you slipped.glacier crevasse, slimpaley.com

This is the crevasse I passed through just before “The…INCIDENT” as my family likes to refer to it.

glacier slimpaley.com

As the entire trip had been conceived and planned by my husband, I hadn’t any preconceived notions of what to expect. I just let the entire experience roll over me and I must say it was exhilarating.

Especially when towards the end, we crested this peak and what to my iPhone-less eyes did appear…

Glacier Bar slimpaley.com

A COCKTAIL BAR!!!

Ice Bar , slimpaley.com

Whiskey…with plenty of  very fresh ice

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Our guides divvying  up our rewards

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Seriously-I don’t even drink whiskey but Mama was so happy to have her nice brown drink.

I removed my mouldy second left glove, toasted Ernest Shackleton and all the courageous Antarctic explorers who had gone before me…

and thanked my lucky stars I was getting back onto a warm boat and not crawling into a dank seal-skin sleeping bag in a wind torn tent for the next year and a half.

Phone schmone.

And you know…whiskey isn’t really that bad

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Stay warm, cozy and open to adventure.

xx SP

For an icy blast from the past, click here

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Breaking With Tradition

Christmas tree Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires slimpaley.com

 I think it would be safe to say I’m not that big on change, especially at this time of year.  Our family always follows the same tradition for Christmas. Big, bushy tree, same decades-old ornaments, freshly sliced & dried oranges hanging amidst flickering candle light bulbs and that Angel with Attitude who unfailingly gives me grief with her wonky ways atop the tree (I swear she’s a midnight drinker) We’re blessed to live in a home that lends itself to traditional east coast Christmas decor, despite living in Southern California so it’s something I’ve really come to enjoy. Occasionally my husband or sons request brightly coloured lights (and believe me, in my weaker moments the temptation to string lights that don’t need to be attached individually, burn out every few days or point straight up is tempting) but I just…could…never…do it.

Until this year.

metal and glass Christmas tree

This year was a Big One for my husband and so guess what-

I let him choose what he wanted for Christmas.

I know. What a wife. Speaking of angels :-)

So, here we are in South America!

Patagonia, to be precise.

(The silver, glass & marble tree is in the Park Hyatt Hotel in Buenos Aires but more on B.A. in another post)

Now a family excursion to Patagonia must be organized and booked a long time in advance. A year in fact. Believe it or not, in this ever broadening era of globalization, even the last edge of the world before Antarctica is a real hot spot.

Did I ever expect I’d be having shoulder surgery 2 months prior to our departure? Hell no, but canceling was definitely not an option ( I’d canceled once before…not such an angel, truth be told :-(  I was scared to break with tradition!)

And the fact that I literally couldn’t do any Christmas decorating or entertaining ended up working perfectly (and guilt-free) into our original travel plans. The tipsy angel stayed in the attic, the stair bannisters remained nude as can be and we’ve had a pretty wild adventure here with nary a dried orange slice in sight.

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The hotel blackboard posting all the daily activities. Patagonia obviously attracts a very outdoorsy type of clientele.

No jokes, please.

Of course my physical abilities were somewhat more limited than usual, but I could certainly hike…

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Enjoy the views, lift a knife & fork and a glass or two.

Vegetarians should now skip the next couple of photos.

lamb roast slimpaley.com

Christmas Day Lunch was, again, something completely different for us; lamb roasted at a local working ranch in Chile.

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FYI-the wines in Argentina and Chile are DELICIOUS (that’s not my husband beside me, just in case you were wondering)

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The scenery is utterly breathtaking.

I have so many more things to share with you, but I’m calling it a night here, it’s late (it stays light until almost 11pm!) and the day begins bright and early tomorrow.

glacier, Patagonia slimpaley.com

Enjoy these last few days of 2013!!

XXSP

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PS. can anyone tell me if they are seeing unwanted ads, or any ads for that matter at the bottom of my posts? Thanks!